I must say that it is still rather depressing looking at the types of controls present in most SEQ planning schemes when it comes to centres- basically a set of well intentioned statements undermined by Codes whose Acceptable Solutions are anything but! Basically, at the detail level, we continue to get it very, very wrong, with the Codes seeming to be more concerned with preserving the status quo, than matching the overall strategic direction of the planning schemes and the SEQ Regional Plan. Carparks are still at the front property alignment, pretending not to be seen behind pathetic little strips of landscaping; buildings are to the side and the rear to maximise the visibility of the carpark so that pedestrians have to brave the killing fields in order to access the services; each site turns inwards on itself in a perpetuation of the worst aspects of 1960's/70's cell-theory design (synergy anyone?) and token cafe's go alfresco to soak up the carpark ambience!
Efforts towards mixed use are still by exception, rather than the rule, because who wants to live above a carpark? Overall, space is poorly defined and poorly contained, leaving people at mercy to the elements and the radiant heat from the asphalt. No amount of improvement program window-dressing can change the fundamentals, unless some serious incentives are put in place to encourage redevelopment. I must say that my time in Sydney has shown me that the floorspace yields in Brisbane and SEQ generally are pathetically low, so low that any progress towards a people-friendly, sustainable, and mixed use future for our centres cannot happen without breaking the current rules. Brisbane particularly has a vertiginous fear of heights, a collective nosebleed seems to set in above two storeys, which means that any sort of consolidation is more or less doomed at the outset, unless a few 'brave decisions' are taken in this regard. Short and squat needs to be replaced by tall(er) and slender (relatively).
This is the point when I tend to start banging on about macro-blocks: the urban units about a half-mile (800m) or so on each edge, which can form a pedestrian-friendly urban form, with mixed use activity on the busier roads that form the outer edges, with quieter, residential interiors. Basically, ground zero at the meeting of 4 such macro-blocks is where your centre lies- with this key corner being the node which requires reinforcement to ensure prominence, of both form and activity. It is the antithesis of the mid-20th Century cell/neighbourhood unit, as it looks outward, rather than inwards, and states firmly that passing trade (be it on foot, by transit, or even car) is welcome, but that parking is at the back, with the services. Of course, such a model is more or less limited to the pre-1960's parts of town, as the fundamental urban structure is already in place and can be tweaked relatively easily (physically easily, as opposed to politically), however once the cell-theory cancer set in, well, more invasive surgery would be required.
A brief review of where these macro-blocks can be identified has a spooky congruence with Brisbane's old tram network... Is it that everything old is new once more, and could this be returning dear old Brissie to it's original trajectory?